Act I, Scene I
Imagine going to your favourite Punjabi restaurant for a cheat-date with your vegetarian boyfriend. Imagine, lovingly ordering palak paneer for him and still being abandoned because he can’t bear the smell of your favourite kadhai chicken. He storms out and expects you to follow. When you don’t, he rages at you, blaming your fragile ego. You end up lamenting all night, crying in guilt. But you are not sure whether the guilt is a result of not getting to have kadhai chicken, or of not following the love of your life on his way out.
Act I, Scene II
Imagine a steamy make out session, albeit tipsy with that close male friend which you would not have remembered had he not mentioned that you could be more than friends. It made you feel special and wanted, in an otherwise lonely world. The next morning you wake up giddy with excitement and text him. You want to talk about what he had said last night. Alas! He doesn’t respond. Blue ticks and emptiness fill your WhatsApp inbox and your mind. You shrink to your chair and wonder if you sounded too clingy. You bite your perfectly manicured nails in anxiety and ask yourself what you could have possibly done wrong.
Act I, Scene III
Imagine working at office on a late night shift with a male boss who you trust and look up to. You keep to yourself and try completing your tasks on time, only to be asked to complete some more chores. You oblige because he is your boss and you, a fresher wouldn’t like to disappoint. But then he requests the unthinkable. He says that his back had been aching, so could you please give him a body massage? You are baffled and horrified at the same time. You don’t know what to say. You feel anxious, even stupid.
With a growing consciousness over mental health, we talk and discuss several noteworthy issues ranging from depression to Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD every day. But we may have forgotten the biggest trigger of our mental health woes – men.
Men Or Mental Health?
With a growing consciousness over mental health, we talk and discuss several noteworthy issues ranging from depression to Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD every day. But we may have forgotten the biggest trigger of our mental health woes – men and their toxic masculinity. You may gasp at this and scold me, saying, “Not all men”. I do agree that there are exceptions but as the old saying goes, “exceptions are not examples“.
It is true, that the new-age, urban, woke millennial men are not apparent monsters. They would not openly lash out at women, denying them the little pleasures of life. A few of them even understand consent. Yet, there is a latent desire to control and repress the whims of the opposite sex who they consider to be weaker and in desperate need of their support.
Women suffer from anxiety disorders and chronic depression, resulting from toxic relationships with men. These relationships need not always be sexual or romantic in nature. It might as well stem from a controlling brother repeatedly explaining what the consequences of his sister wearing a short dress for a night-out, could be. In every possibility, his sister is aware of danger lurking in the corners. Yet, she feels oddly conscious on being constantly mansplained by a trusting male.
Women suffer from anxiety disorders and chronic depression, resulting from toxic relationships with men.
Then there is that male friend from the drunken make out session. The next morning, he would invariably gaslight you into believing that you had misinterpreted the entire conversation because you were drunk. He had never really said that he liked you. He had merely stated that you were better than the rest of his friends. He might as well theorise his desire for casual sex, claiming that the likes of Hegel and Jacques Lacan were proponents of the same.
Welcome to the world of toxic men and toxic masculinity. The mansplainer and the gaslighter are closely followed by the great apologist. He is not aware of the emotional burden that he is because before he met you, he was severely wronged by some “wretched” woman. Forgive you must, for he has not sinned “deliberately”. You cannot in any possible way convince him that you are not his free therapist.
Women, brought up by the society as “givers and nurturers”, apologise over and over again for a thousand different things. They apologise for being “clingy”, they apologise for being “slutty”. They apologise for calling 50 times simply because a man thinks it is stupid to do so. They seek therapy because a man believes that their over-attachment or possessiveness is problematic. They swallow their tears, put up a brave smile and walk away quietly. They are willing to work it out and give it another shot, in spite of the havocs that toxic men wreck in their lives.
But where do toxic men come from? They are not born toxic. The little boy who fiercely bites his dentist because his father asked him to not “cry like a girl”, during his cavity-filling procedure perhaps shows his first signs of toxicity. He might later grow up to be emotionally distant, reducing women as objects of sexual encounters and unwilling to provide them with any sort of emotional availability. The fashion-enthusiast who is forcefully pushed towards mechanical engineering, merely because embroidery is not a man’s job is as much a victim of toxic masculinity, as a woman is. This is exactly why men need feminism for their sanity, as much as women do.
Men are hardly toxic in their acts from the beginning and hence it is unnecessary for them to attain standards of manhood as fixed by the society. Lesser masculinity or subordinated masculinity is in fact better for everyone’s mental health. Yes, I am talking about pleasant, sensitive, sweet, thoughtful, vulnerable men. We want more of you in our lives.
Prerna Chatterjee is an editor at a publishing house and a freelance-writer based in Kolkata. An alumnus of Jadavpur University and Asian College of Journalism, she has worked with The Telegraph and ThePrint. Her feminist rants and writings are largely inspired by the little struggles of being a woman on a daily basis. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.
Featured Image Source: The Conversation